Mom's Rules Still Apply

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When you started your career in the fast oil change business, your boss, a supervisor or even a seasoned co-worker trained you on the processes and procedures you needed to know to be successful. But one of your most important industry mentors is the one who also told you clean your room and eat all your vegetables. That’s right, I’m talking about your mother. And though we may have broken curfew, rolled our eyes and lamented all the “fun” things we weren’t allowed to do, in the fast lube industry, mom’s rules still apply. Here are a few ways those lessons serve you and your customers well every day.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I’ve heard it said nothing haunts you like the words you don’t say, but it’s been my experience that nothing haunts you like the words you say and later regret. It’s hard not to get caught up in water cooler gossip or to keep that slightly off-color-but-completely-hilarious joke to yourself, but maintaining positive shoptalk is one small way workplace culture can be changed for the better. It frees all employees perform their jobs without fear of ridicule and can even help put your customers more at ease — especially if they remain in their vehicles for the duration of the service and can hear the chatter in the bays.

“Please” and “thank you” are magic words.

Even years after being admonished to say them, the magic words haven’t lost their mystical power. Each team member and each customer that pulls into your bay is entitled to respect, and politeness is respect with its boots on. “Please” transforms a demand into a request. For example, “Please pull forward,” “Please pop your hood,” and “Please sign the ticket.” A sincere “thank you” upon service completion ends the customer’s visit on a positive note. On the flipside, acknowledging a customer’s thanks is equally as important. Chick-fil-A is the franchise master of responding to a thank you. You know once they hand over your chicken sandwich and waffle fries they will tell you, “It was my pleasure,” even calling the customer by name in some instances. So next time a satisfied customer thanks you for an oil change, stand up straight, look them in the eye, smile and acknowledge their gratitude. And for goodness sakes, make your mother proud and don’t mumble.

Offer a beverage to your guests.

Mom is a great hostess, and when someone pays her a visit, she’s sure to have some type of beverage on hand to offer. Consider customers guests in your home. If you provide free bottles of water while customers wait in-bay, don’t forget to offer them. If you have customers wait in a designated waiting area, point them in the right direction and let them know what amenities they can take advantage of while you service their vehicle. Taking the extra time to do so helps ensure they will knock on your (bay) door again.

Respect your elders.

Respect can get you almost anywhere you want to go in this world. Respect for property, respect when you speak and act and especially respect for your elders and superiors. It’s jokingly said that the older we get, the smarter our parents (and elders) get. We would do well to listen when they speak and learn from them. As we say at the National Oil & Lube News headquarters, “Education is expensive, but if you can get the information secondhand, the tuition is much cheaper.” Respect your elders and your superiors and you may, in turn, learn a thing or two.

Wear a helmet.

Many of us went through a period of time where if we were going to be on anything that had wheels, we weren’t allowed to leave our driveway without the proper safety precautions. In a shop environment, there are several ways to be injured on the job. Be sure to follow your shop’s safety procedures to cut down on chances of a personal injury or damage to a customer’s car. A vehicle is a lot more expensive than your childhood ten-speed.

Always be on time.

Or as my mother put it, “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.” It’s a small gesture that proves you respect the owner, supervisor, your team and the job that you do. In my hometown, the high school football program adopted what they called “Lobo Time.” Named after the mascot, Lobo Time meant if the team was leaving for an away game or meeting to watch film, you’d be there 15 minutes prior to the designated time. If you want to stand out from the rest of the team, be the first one at the shop in the morning. Be the one opening the bay doors and turning on the coffee. Occasionally, life happens; alarm clocks don’t go off, kids get sick, traffic is inching along more slowly than usual. If you’re going to be late, do what your mom taught you to do — call.

Own up to your mistakes.

From the time we’re old enough to make choices, we make mistakes, and no matter how old we get, we still manage to rack up our fair share of missteps and blunders. Should you find yourself in the wrong, humbly accept the consequences of your actions and take the necessary actions to rectify the situation. And always, always, be the first to apologize.

Keep your room clean.

When you were little, it was toys. As you got older, sports equipment, schoolbooks and dirty laundry took the place of toy trucks and blocks, but the messes were still the same. Cleanliness is just as important in your workspace as it was to your mother. Keeping it well organized can guarantee you’ll be able to find the tools you need when you need them, helping you perform faster oil changes and more efficient services. In common areas, this helps others find what they need quickly, whether they’re looking for coffee creamer or a cabin air filter.

Tuck your shirt in.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You may leave work dirty each day, but always show up clean, well groomed and in accordance with your shop’s dress code and uniform policy.

Eat your vegetables.

Your boss isn’t playing table monitor to make sure you’ve had a generous helping of your daily greens. I’m talking about your proverbial vegetables. There will be rules, procedures and policies — certain things on your plate that you may not necessarily like. But you have to take them in with the rest of the meal. It’s possible you may not understand all the ins and outs that went into their implementation. And though you don’t necessarily enjoy it, like your broccoli, it might actually be good for you.

Each May, we take pause to celebrate all the leading ladies in our lives, the ones who sat patiently while we refused to clean our plates, wear our helmets and pick up our sweaty socks. We thank them for shaping us into the people and the employees we are today. So whether it’s your mother, grandmother or that special woman who feels like family, this year, don’t forget to thank her for all the career advice she’s instilled over the years.

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